A big thank you to the wonderful Dater, who agreed to be interviewed for my regular series that casts the spotlight on women (and men) discovering dating in the modern age (aka online dating), and writing about it through their blogs.
The first thing I noticed about your blog, Dater Analysis, was how original and how clever it is – the spreadsheet graphic with the key words (eg sex, relationships, emotions, texting, waxing etc) and the play of words of Dater/Data. How did you come up with the concept and how long ago have you been running the blog? How long do you gestate about your posts? Do you intentionally strive to write witty headlines?
Thanks! I came up with the ‘Dater Analysis’ concept quite quickly. I had already decided to write a blog about dating, and when I sat in front of the WordPress website one Sunday afternoon, first creating my blog, I thought What shall I call it? What shall I call it? and after about 5 minutes ‘Dater Analysis’ popped into my head.
Funnily enough, the other day I was sitting watching TV with Flatmate Joe and someone on the screen said ‘data’ but pronounced like ‘darter’ (instead of day-ter) and I said “Fuck! I just realised! The pun in my blog name doesn’t work if you pronounce ‘data’ that way!” (Editor’s note: I say darter not dayta, but I got it anyway!)
I’ve been running the blog for just over a year. I guess I try and come up with titles that will make people want to read the post, because the title is often the thing that pulls me in to other people’s blogs. I love a pun or a funny quote, so as I’m writing the post, I try and keep an eye out for things that would work as the title.
I’m also trying to be cautious about not making my titles too ‘clickbaity’. There’s one about foot fetishes and basically nothing happens in that one, except I nearly went on a date with a guy with a foot fetish but then decided he seemed a bit annoying. I don’t want people to read a post and be disappointed the title promised more.
Some posts I gestate for ages. When I started, a few noteworthy things had happened, about 6-8 weeks earlier, so for a long time I couldn’t catch up with myself and wrote everything 6-8 weeks after it happened, but I am much more caught up now. Often I spend quite a while thinking about a post, or write it in stages and keep going back to it. Occasionally I bang it out really quickly. The quickest one was about the date with CAPS LOCK GUY, (Excessive Physical Contact) when he wouldn’t stop touching me. I wrote that before I went to sleep after the date, because I felt I really needed to.
I think spending longer writing it, going back and editing out the rubbish bits, makes it better writing, but I guess I don’t want to leave it too long so it becomes stale.
The things I most enjoy about your blog are your quirky sense of humour, clever way with words and intelligent take on the subjects of dating, relationships and selfhood. Is your blog is a good reflection of who you are? What would you most like your readers to appreciate or notice?
Thank you! And yes, if my personality was distilled down into a website, it would be this blog. I think the only difference between me and the blog, is that at work, sometimes people who don’t know me that well think I’m quiet and really professional. They might be surprised that quiet person has written so many words on the internet about her vagina.
But any of my colleagues who actually spend any time with me know I’m exactly the kind of person who would put thousands of words on the internet about my vagina.
I guess the dream is for readers to find it funny, interesting and helpful.
Have you developed any theories on dating? I enjoyed your recent post on the Idiot Litmus Test? Any hard and fast rules? What about advice for would-be daters or newbies?
Good question. I think any rules should not be hard and fast (apart from things like treating each other with respect and only having sex with people who 100% consent).
I think there are always exceptions to rules, so rules that are too hard and fast might lead you to dismiss someone great. Like with the Idiot Litmus Test, I thought that song lyric in my profile would weed out people who don’t have the same taste in music as me, but actually, that guy in that post did misunderstood the song lyric and yet did have the same taste in music as me.
And another example – I think spelling and grammar are important so I feel like I wouldn’t date someone who didn’t have a basic grasp, but one of my beloved ex-boyfriends was crap at spelling (which I didn’t discover until we were together) and it didn’t mean anything.
So, I think, have an idea of what’s important to you, but hold your guidelines lightly.
I think most things in dating are a grey area – like, it’s good to meet soon instead messaging each other for too long first, but not too soon. You can kind of tell on the first date if you click, so don’t pursue something where you’re obviously not well matched, but also, some of my favourite people I didn’t click with straight away, so it’s sometimes good to give people a second chance.
One theory I made up which I really do believe in (again – within reason!) is The Formula. I do try and work out how long a guy took to text me, and try to take 1.5 times longer to reply.
This is because I know we always want what we can’t have, and if a guy doesn’t reply immediately to me, it gives me a chance to think “Oh I quite like him actually, I hope he does reply soon”, so I want them to think that about me.
I would say to newbies that dating can be tough and you have to be quite resilient. Often things don’t work out and it’s rarely anything you’ve done wrong, but it can be disappointing and demoralising, especially if you really like someone. So, don’t go into it if you’re already feeling fragile at the time, or, if it makes you feel bad, be kind to yourself as it’s understandable.
Also, it’s good to take breaks from dating if it’s not making you happy or you’re starting to feel hopeless, because then that sense of hopelessness can come across and make the next date go badly too.
Do you write your blog mostly as a diary or a record of your romantic life, for self-analysis or creative expression – or a combination of all of these elements?
Yes – I guess it is a combination of all of those elements. I’m writing a novel and I thought the blog would help me develop and practise my writing, which has happened (although the blog has taken a bit of my focus away from my novel as well).
And I love telling a good story, and dates often are good stories, so that’s part of my motivation.
I wrote a diary as a teenager and sometimes it made me feel worse, and caused me to ruminate on the same bad thoughts and feelings, over and over, and I worried the blog would do that, but it hasn’t. I guess it’s because I know people will be reading my blog, so it forces me not to just write the same things over and over like I did in my diary (although I’m sure I do repeat myself a bit). Often I’ve written about something really difficult and felt more of a sense of peace at the end, especially in my posts about bereavement.
As a professional mental health therapist, do you find it difficult to ‘switch off’ or to engage with potential partners as equals? What are the benefits of being someone who is well studied in human behavior while in the dating game? Any disadvantages?
I do find it hard to switch off from therapist mode, but I don’t think that stops me seeing partners as equals. Something I really like about CBT (the type of therapy I do) is that we see the therapist and patient as really equal – I’m the expert in CBT and the patient is the expert about their life.
I think the helpful side of it is that people’s behaviour often makes more sense, the more you know about psychology. It means sometimes I think “that person has done something different to what I hoped, but it makes sense because of xyz that’s happening for them at the moment.”
I think therapists are likely to have good communication skills, and be empathic and compassionate, and those are all skills or qualities that are helpful in relationships too.
The disadvantage is that it’s hard to stop being compassionate. I’ve found it so hard to get over that young Whippersnapper who had body image problems, because everything he did made perfect sense when I took into account what he was going through. I needed to be able to get angry and think “yeah but also he was being a prick” and my compassion for him was a barrier to that for a long time.
Occasionally boyfriends have said “stop talking to me like you’re my therapist!” but for every time someone has said that, there are 100 times they’ve said “it’s really helpful talking to you about this”.
I’m currently having counselling because of a few difficult experiences I’ve had in relationships, and we’ve reflected on how I’m drawn to people who need to be cared for, because I feel safer with people like that; if they’re a bit vulnerable they’re less likely to be threatening to me, and if they need me, they’re less likely to leave me. However, it doesn’t work out because after a few years I get resentful that both of us have focused on their needs so much and forgotten about mine. So maybe the question about things not being equal is more relevant than I thought!
How do you feel about your earliest posts? Do you ever cringe about over-sharing or feel inclined to remove any posts? Do you have personal friends or family read them?
No, nothing has really changed since my earlier posts. The only post that made me worry about over-sharing was the one about being sexually assaulted (The Swimming Pool Incident). I wrote it and as soon as I posted it, I thought Oh my god, take it down take it down. I initially thought a compromise was to leave it up overnight and then take it down in the morning, but then in the morning, someone had commented saying they were assaulted too and my post really helped them, so I left it up.
Otherwise, things about sex, bodily fluids, vaginas, stupid stuff I’ve done, it’s stuff I talk about all the time anyway, so I’m quite comfortable with it.
A lot of my friends and family know about my blog, because I love writing and I love talking about writing. Some friends don’t read it because they’re like “we hear about all this stuff in detail as it’s happening, so why would we then read it?”. Other friends are like “it’s good but I don’t really want to hear about you in those positions, it feels wrong”. But a few friends do regularly read it and are really encouraging about it. It’s made me feel a bit closer to a couple of friends, because I’m grateful for their encouragement, but also they know more about me from reading it.
I have one male friend who reads it; when I posted the story about being sexually assaulted, I had got the impression he wasn’t reading my blog anymore, so I didn’t think he’d read that story. Then he read the post and emailed me saying “I’m really sorry to hear that this happened to you” and that meant so much to me.
I do worry when I get a boyfriend that they’ll ask to borrow my laptop one day and say “what’s Dater Analysis?”. The thing is, I’m very open and honest about everything so I’d want to share it with them, but it has bad idea written all over it, if they read about themselves. Oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
I often get an urge to email a link to my blog to the Whippersnapper but I know it’s an achingly terrible idea.
What is your internal picture of the perfect relationship (or man) for you? Are you the kind of person who writes lists of essential qualities?
Funnily enough, I was thinking about this yesterday. I do have a list of essential qualities, which I wrote after an argument with my abusive ex. I thought I’d brainstorm everything that’s important to me, and then figure out if he matched it. He didn’t.
Again – I think it’s important to hold these lists lightly, as some things can be worked on, and some things that feel like deal-breakers turn out not to be, but here’s what I wrote in my phone that day:
- good sex
- fancy him
- wants a family
- stable financially
- left wing
- same intelligence as me (but slightly less – I want to be able to chat about clever stuff but I also want to be able to go “actually, it’s magnesium” and for them to look impressed)
- supportive emotionally
- enjoy same TV as me (I don’t remember writing that! But it must’ve seemed important at the time)
- must be able to listen to me talk about periods
- good emotional intelligence.
The ones that are definite deal-breakers for me are left-wing, honest, emotionally supportive and funny. Oh and even-tempered. I’m not going out with another guy with anger management problems. Most other things can be worked out.
Your musing and deep thinking about important matters like death, addiction, sexually transmitted infections and the pitfalls of modern romance are fascinating to read and, I believe, incredibly helpful to readers. Is this a byproduct or an intention?
Thank you, I’d love it if it were helpful to someone. The stuff about psychology is partly a byproduct – basically, if you spend any time with me at all, you’ll hear some chat about psychology and mental health because I’m thinking about it constantly, so I talk about it a lot.
With sexual health and bereavement, I do believe it’s not talked about enough so I do set out to try and chip away at that.
Some of your pieces have been so funny I’ve almost split my sides from laughter! One example is the Brazilian rainforest debacle. I’m curious to know whether, when looking or re-reading back, you find them hilarious as well?
That’s great, I love being funny. When bad things happen, it does cheer me up to think “at least it’s a good story.” I don’t really want to say “yes I find myself utterly hilarious” but sometimes I do read things back and think “I’m happy with the words I chose there.” (Editor’s note: Believe me, Dater, you actually ARE funny!)
Do you think dating in the modern world is different for each of the age brackets (say, under 20s, under 30s, under 40s and over 40s)? If yes, how so? What is the common ground?
I think I can only talk with any conviction about what it’s like to be 33 and dating.
I was also single when I was 22 and it felt completely different to this. This was partly because the world was different then, as dating apps didn’t exist. I didn’t really go on many dates, but kissed a lot of boys in clubs.
I was probably less confident back then but also less weathered by life. I felt lonelier then, as I had just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone. However, I felt a lot less pressure when I was single at 22. Now I feel a bit of a failure when I compare myself to other people who are married with children, but I know I could have been married with children too, if I hadn’t been brave enough to walk away from relationships I knew in my heart weren’t right.
I feel sorry for the kids who didn’t get to grow up in a world without social media.
Do you think there is a pattern to your dating life thus far? Do you mostly have first dates, second or third dates? What determines whether a relationship is likely to bloom past these early stages?
Before being single this time round, I always seemed to get into relationships quite quickly. Now, I have mainly first dates, which I’m not thrilled about.
In the past I found that if we had a second date, we’d probably get together and be in a relationship for a long time.
Now I’m writing this, I’m wondering if a past mistake is basically getting into a long term relationship with any old person who comes along!
I don’t really know what determines whether a relationship blooms past the early stages. I guess it’s just if it feels right for both of you and you think the person will meet your needs.
I’m interested that you don’t have a category about sex – is that because sex is often woven through many posts, or because you’re not interested in exploring it in your writing?
Good point – it’s just an oversight. I will create one now! I think partly, I’m cautious about not wanting my sex stories to end up as wank material. (Editor’s note: I honestly never even thought of that!)
On the stats on WordPress, sometimes you can see what people were googling when they came across your blog, and I think early on, it looked like someone was googling stuff that would be good inspiration for masturbation, and my blog came up.
There’s nothing wrong with wank fodder, but it’s not what I’m setting out to write. A bit like if you spent ages making a nice cake and someone said “I like your bread” – it’s just not want you set out to make. So maybe that was in the back of my mind when I created categories. But it makes sense to have it as a category.
Your tag line on your page ‘Dating tips – must be taken with a large pinch of salt’ says “because if I really knew what I was doing, would I be single, in my 30s and writing a blog about my love life?” Does a part of you feel that competency on some level (aka ‘knowing what you’re doing’) can determine outcome in your romantic life?
Ha, I partly just wrote that so I didn’t come across like “OK guys, gather round, listen to my absolute gems of wisdom…” I think there’s a British social norm where the second you say something that seems like a hint of self-promotion or is vaguely positive about yourself, you have to quickly say something self-deprecating afterwards. (Editor’s note: Yes in Australia we call it the Tall Poppy Syndrome.)
I do think lacking certain skills makes relationships difficult – like good communication, self-awareness, emotional intelligence. I actually think I’m quite competent at relationships really – I’ve had a few that have lasted years because we were good at working around problems and communicating.
And I guess earlier on, skills like putting people at ease and making conversation make it more likely people will enjoy the date and want to see you again.
Maybe success in your romantic life is like 50% down to ‘competency’ and 50% down to the circumstances? Because you can do everything perfectly and it doesn’t work out because of things totally outside of your control, like the other person’s ‘competency’ and life circumstances.
What are some of your favourite posts of all time and why?
Good question. I feel a bit like they’re my children and I shouldn’t have a favourite, but that’s silly. The ones I’ve written about bereavement – I know they’re not exactly massive crowd-pleasers, but they have been cathartic to write and I do feel like I have useful things to say about death from losing my ex-boyfriend, as not everyone has had an experience like that.
The ones about psychology are the most work to write, because I often do a lot of research to either find out more or check what I think I know is correct. Then I end up feeling really proud of those ones, like the recent one about dopamine (He wasn’t god, it was just dopamine).
What are yours?
Dater, honestly there are too many! I am one of your biggest fans but if I absolutely had to choose, the Brazilian incident left me with tears rolling down my cheeks and grinning for ages; Young enough to catch genital warts…, The Haemoglobin Chastity Belt, James and all his penises, and the Whippersnapper series have all made me laugh or feel very thoughtful or sad. Thanks for your time!